How Small Businesses Can Create a High-Performance Company Culture

Updated on 4 July 2019

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A High Performance Company Culture

By: Pam Lewis, DB & Associates, a management consulting firm

The belief that ‘hard’ performance measures are enough to drive high performance pervades many organisations.

The focus tends to be around system, task, talent, and motivation (transactional aspects of the organisation). In reality, it is the traditionally ‘soft’ measures of organisational culture (i.e. a shared belief in the need for high performance) that drives the ‘hard’ measures onwards and upwards.

For an organisation to realise exceptional business performance, high-performance behaviours and practices need to become self-sustaining across all functions and throughout all levels within a high-performance culture.

Creating a high-performance company culture

Culture includes shared beliefs that evolve over time, guiding behaviours within the organisation and creating a culture of high performance from a transformational level.

When gaps appear in the requisite alignment between key success factors versus what is actually taking place ‘on the ground’, it becomes increasingly difficult for high-performance behaviours and practices to become self-sustaining across the organisation.

There is a common theme with three main barriers appearing consistently:

1. Failure to align organisational vision, mission and strategies with current market realities
2. Specific high-performance behaviours – resulting in orientation, empowerment, responsiveness and accountability – are not clearly aligned with and integrated into the business strategy
3. Organisational systems and processes do not accurately support vision and strategy

Bridging the gaps

By taking into account that every industry sector and organisation has its own peculiarities, the following provides some very general guidelines to the types of actions that could be taken to address five key gaps.

Gap 1: The external environment vs leadership

It is not enough for leadership to create a clear strategy for the organisation. The robustness of this strategy needs to be constantly tested against the dynamism of the external environment, frequently re-examined, modified, and possibly re-created to meet the needs of constant change.

Gap 2: Leadership’s vision vs core purpose

Once leaders have developed a clear appreciation of both the external and internal environment, they need to be able to shape a vision, create a mission, and develop goals which clearly align to it. Alignment between external needs and vision, mission, goals, and values of the organisation is critical to sustainable high performance.

Gap 3: Leaders’ actions vs core purpose

When actions and/or behaviours and core values (such as service excellence or quality product) are not aligned, the result is confusion and frustration.

Gap 4: Leadership’s actions vs employee actions

Developing a high-performance company culture cannot be driven only from an operational level for real and sustainable change.

Company culture needs to be driven from the top with careful examination of actual current and future capabilities linked to the future requirements and strategic intent of the organisation, with clear competency frameworks, job profiles, skills development, talent management, and performance management systems in place.

Gap 5: Employee actions vs organisational infrastructure

Infrastructure should not only be enabling; it also needs to align with the core values and goals of the organisation. This includes a thorough understanding of organisational resources and what capabilities are required to execute strategy, and ensuring that effective structures, systems, process, and procedures are in place to support the development and sustaining of high performance.

Challenging, yet so rewarding

Sustaining high-performance behaviours and practices is not a simple process. However, by being aware of the gaps that appear from time to time between the various interlinking components of the open system of the organisation, it is possible to make a careful diagnosis and plan appropriate actions and changes.

From an individual perspective, for people to maintain energy and a sustained high performance, they must have someone to discuss their own levels of personal resilience, and to assist them with dealing with stressors (emotional and physical) and build motivation and confidence.

About the Author: Pam Lewis has 18 years of experience in organisational development across various industries. Her expertise extends to people, processes and systems in key areas of organisational analysis and design, talent management and capability assessment, and related project design and management. Pam now offers her wealth of expertise, knowledge and experience as an Associate at DB & Associates helping businesses deliver value, unlock potential and motivate individuals and teams towards personal and collective growth and success.

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